NINOTCHKA (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)

Greta Garbo proves herself a wondrous comedienne as Nina Yakushova Ivanov, nicknamed Ninotchka, a no-nonsense Soviet emissary sent to Paris to sell former tsarist Grand Duchess Swana’s jewels to alleviate Soviet financial duress. Swana, living in Paris, wants back her jewels—for themselves, but also in a psychological attempt to reverse history. Meanwhile, Ninotchka has fallen […]

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (Billy Wilder, 1957)

There aren’t many Billy Wilder films I do not like; but what can one do with Agatha Christie? The convoluted plot, with its surprise ending (oh, so that’s what’s been going on!), chugs from contrivance to contrivance. Moreover, and most damning, perhaps, Marlene Dietrich, who had given one of her best performances in Wilder’s A […]

PEOPLE ON SUNDAY (Edgar G. Ulmer, Robert and Curt Siodmak, Fred Zinnemann, 1929)

A documentary fiction, a fictional documentary: Menschen am Sonntag, ein film ohne Schausppieler, written by Curt Siodmak and Billy Wilder, and directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, Robert and Curt Siodmak and, to a minor extent, Fred Zinnemann, is the last notable silent film from Germany—an experiment in which young filmmakers flex their love of cinema. […]

THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (Billy Wilder, 1957)

James Stewart is wonderful as Charles Augustus Lindbergh in Billy Wilder’s thrilling, moving, mesmerizing The Spirit of St. Louis. It centers on the young former army airmail pilot’s historic 1927 trans-Atlantic flight, from New York to Paris, in a small, minimalist airplane he helped design. This incident inaugurated two eras: those of aviation (which the […]